perception verbs used as deictic (or non-deictic) presentational particles

Hewitt, Stephen s.hewitt at UNESCO.ORG
Tue May 2 06:40:19 UTC 2006

Dear Nick,

Formal Arabic 'inna corresponds to what you are looking for:

'Inna is a formal clause-initial highlighting functor, which may be used to highlight clause-initial definite nouns (3), and must be used in the case of clause-initial indefinites (5, 6) in formal Arabic. It originally meant something like "behold", which accounts for the accusative case-marking. The cognate Hebrew hinne is said to be responsible for the countless instances of Lo, Behold, and Verily which abound in the King James version of the Old Testament.

(1)     [jâ'a]V [l-'aulâd-u]S  		VS order, definite subject
	came.m the-children.nom
	the children came 
(2)     [al-'aulâd-u]S [jâ'û]V		SV order, definite subject, without 'inna
	the-children-nom they.came
	the children came
(3)     'inna [l-'aulâd-a]S [jâ'û]V		SV order, definite subject,  with 'inna
	lo the-children-acc they.came
	the children came
(4)     [jâ'a] [aulâd-un kathîr-ûn]		VS order, indefinite subject
	came.m children-nom.indef
	many children came
(5)     *[aulâd-un kathîr-ûn]S [jâ'û]V	SV order, indefinite subject, starred without 'inna 
	children-nom.indef they.came
(6)     'inna [aulâd-an kathîr-în]S [jâ'û]V	SV order, indefinite subject,  obligatorily with 'inna
	lo children-acc.indef they.came
	many children came

Steve Hewitt
Bureau PI-106
7 place de Fontenoy
75352 PARIS 07 SP
s.hewitt at

-----Original Message-----
From: Discussion List for ALT
Sent: dim. 30 avril 2006 17:18
Subject: perception verbs used as deictic (or non-deictic)
presentational particles

Dear Colleagues,

I am looking for examples in different languages where a perception verb,
maybe something like 'see', has been grammaticalized as a 'deictic
presentational' particle, or anything functionally close to that (for
example, it might also function as a non-deictic presentational particle, in
an 'existential' construction meaning 'there is a X.').

Can anyone help me?

The only two clear examples of deictic presentational particles that I know 
of so far are from French and from Classical and Koine Greek:

Voilà mon ami. 'There's my friend'
Voici mon frère, Trey. 'Here's my brother, Trey'
Le voilà. 'There he is' (le is unambiguously the object case, not

idou hudOr 'Here's/There's (some) water!'  (idou is unmarked for near/far
idou egO 'Here I am!' (egO is unambiguously nominative case)

Knud Lambrecht counts voilà as 'a frozen form of the imperative of voir "to
see" meaning literally "see there".'

Greek idou derives from the singular imperative of the middle aorist stem
eidon '(I) saw'. As far as I understand, middle forms were slowly falling
out of classical Greek, and by Koine times, the middle of eidon is only used
as this grammaticalized deictic presentational particle. (The active forms
of eidon, however, continued to be in use, so the real aorist imperative
'see!' or 'look at!' was ide [singular] or idete [plural].)

I would be very grateful for any examples people could share with me, or
references to literature. If possible, please explain what case the
introduced NP is in (object or subject case, etc.), and whether or not the
construction is neutral for near/far deixis (Greek idou is neutral).

Many thanks for your attention.

Nicholas Bailey
nicholas_bailey at 

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